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Kids in Need of Desks in Malawi

Updated on January 28, 2017

A Malawi Classroom Without Desks

An attentive student in Malawi
An attentive student in Malawi | Source

Facts About Malawi

16.7 Million
Population Living Below Poverty Level
Life Expectancy
58 Years
Average Annual Family Income
HIV Prevalence
Literacy Rate

The Beginning of the K.I.N.D. Fund

In 2010 American television commentator Lawrence O'Donnell traveled to Malawi, a tiny landlocked country in southeast Africa, to inquire about the needs in the schools there. He traveled there after talking to a friend who had visited Malawi and told him about some of the needs she had seen on her trip.

The needs in Malawi are great. It's one of the world's least developed, poorest countries, with a low life expectancy, high infant mortality, and high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

Lawrence O'Donnell Explains His Mission

Finding Desks for Children

When O'Donnell visited the schools in Malawi he found students sitting on the floors of the schools, sometimes dirt floors and sometimes concrete floors, because they had no desks. The teacher, when asked, told him their greatest need was for chairs.

Lawrence O'Donnell then set about trying to find, not just chairs, but desks for these students and their teacher. On this first trip to Malawi, he found a woodworking shop that had been making desks for UNICEF and ordered thirty desks to be delivered to the school he had visited that week.

Inviting Viewers to Participate in the K.I.N.D. Fund

During the holiday season in 2010, O'Donnell told his audience about his summer trip to Malawi and invited viewers to contribute to the fund he had set up in conjunction with UNICEF to provide desks for Malawi schools. They called this fund the K.I.N.D. Fund, Kids In Need of Desks. A week later, the fund had raised over a million dollars.

Every holiday season since 2010, Lawrence O'Donnell has retold the story of his trip to Malawi and invited viewers to contribute to the UNICEF fund that is still delivering desks to the schools in Malawi.

Millions of dollars have been contributed and thousands of desks provided to the children of Malawi. About half of students in Malawi have desks now, and the fund has been extended to provide scholarships for girls to attend high school. Primary school is free in Malawi, but the students must pay to attend high school. When families cannot afford this tuition for all of their children, it is the male children who are usually chosen to attend. This fund helps some of the girls afford an education.

In addition to helping the schools, the purchase of all of these desks helps the economy of Malawi since all of the desks are made locally.

Deep in Africa

A markerMalawi Africa -
get directions

The Gift

The card from Unicef that we gave to our grandaughters.
The card from Unicef that we gave to our grandaughters.

....the Donors

Adding Meaning to A Christmas Celebration

Through the years, we have seen Lawrence O'Donnell tell the story of his trip to Malawi and invite viewers to participate. We have admired and sometimes talked about contributing, but we already have our charitable projects and have usually passed this opportunity by.

This past holiday season while watching the presentation we were preparing for a visit with our four granddaughters. For $55 dollars, O'Donnell said, we could buy two desks that would seat six children in Malawi. I had just spent that much money on purchasing two gingerbread houses and the items to decorate them prior to our granddaughters' visit. So that night we called the UNICEF number and made this $55 donation in the name of our four granddaughters.

Just before our granddaughters' visit the next week, we received a card from UNICEF with all of their names written on it. So one night while they were visiting we showed them the video of students in Malawi sitting on floors, gave them the card and told them we had bought two of these desks in their name so that six more children in Malawi would not have to sit on the floor at school.

When our granddaughters are older and look back at our times with them during the holidays, I think they'll have fond memories of decorating gingerbread houses, but most of the gifts we gave them will soon be put aside, lost or worn out. I hope this gift of giving will stay with them. Buying desks for school children in Malawi may not be as much fun as decorating gingerbread houses for 5-9 year olds but, in the long run, it may be more rewarding. They may also be able to pinpoint Malawi on a map.

We hope to add this activity to our Christmas celebrations with them every year--gingerbread houses and desks for students in Malawi. Seems like a good combination.


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    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 6 months ago from Tennessee

      I hope Lawrence O'Donnell keeps broadcasting. I would definitely miss his program.

    • jwmurph profile image

      jwmurph 6 months ago from Tennessee

      I discovered this program a couple of years ago, and I have supported it. I think it is a wonderful effort and hope it succeeds, at least until all children, and their teachers, have desks in their classrooms in Malawi.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 7 months ago from Tennessee

      It's such a small amount for us, Bill, and such a big deal for the kids who get the desk.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      This is an important topic. For decades these needy nations have been virtually ignored, and it's all because of economics, and what a horrible reason why we withhold more aid and assistance.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 9 months ago from Tennessee

      Hi, Dianna. We do take a lot for granted in this country and are sometimes very wasteful.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 9 months ago

      We take too much for granted here in the US. It is sad to think children have to go without basic learning tools, such as a desk, to inspire education. You are making a good difference in this world.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 10 months ago from Tennessee

      FlouristAnyway, Thanks. We'll try to do that each year. I'm watching O'Donnell more now to keep my sanity after the election.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 10 months ago from Tennessee

      Thanks, Jodah. This is one good cause and one that would speak to our granddaughters.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 10 months ago from USA

      I love that you supported this worthwhile cause. I saw it on tv and thought that it was so worthwhile. To make the world a better place, we just have to start somewhere, anywhere and change one life at a time. The lesson you are giving your granddaughters is an important one.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 10 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a very worthwhile cause. We take so much for granted. Thank you for sharing the need for desks in Malawi, Jo.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 10 months ago from Tennessee

      Thanks, Larry. It is true that there are still so many in need, but six little children in Malawi will have desks this year. And seeing projects like this makes me feel better about the climate in our country at present.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 10 months ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderfully written.

      I feel like we as a people have the resources so we could make sure everyone has what they need if only we could come together and make it a priority.

      Fundraising efforts are necessary and wonderful in the current climate, but if we were really devoted to making things better, it would take a more significant organization.